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HP moves OpenVMS dev to India?

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The companies that create and modernize operating systems are under the same economic pressures as the IT departments of corporations - large and small - that create and maintain their own applications atop those operating systems. And it comes as no surprise that the development of the venerable OpenVMS proprietary operating system - under the control of Hewlett-Packard since its 2001 acquisition of Compaq - is moving largely to India.

The news of the changes in the OpenVMS development organization came to light when Ann McQuaid, general manager of the OpenVMS platform, sent out a letter to AlphaServer and Integrity shops that have applications running on OpenVMS. In that letter, which you can read on the OpenVMS newsgroups hosted by Google here, McQuaid said that Sue Skonetski, manager of engineering programs for the OpenVMS software engineering group, will be "pursuing new opportunities" after 15 years as the main advocate of the OpenVMS platform inside Digital Equipment, Compaq, and then HP over those years.

McQuaid added that Sujatha Ramani will take over the Skonetski's responsibilities, including what HP called technical customer programs and communications. Ramani has spent 11 years at HP in its PC, printing, and corporate IT businesses in various sales, marketing, operations, and channel and account management jobs. But as you might imagine, that's not the same thing as being the OpenVMS standard bearer advocating for the platform inside the HP corporate behemoth.

On the OpenVMS newsgroup, there were rumors flying around that not only was Skonetski leaving HP, but that OpenVMS development and maintenance was being shifted to the software development lab in Bangalore, India. According to those rumors, all but about a dozen HP employees are being let go from the OpenVMS labs in Marlboro, Massachusetts, and those employees will interface between the Indian development team and HP's corporate offices and, presumably, OpenVMS customers.

An HP spokesperson said that OpenVMS has been developed in facilities around the globe, including the Marlboro and Bangalore labs, for years. Digital did a lot of OpenVMS work in Nashua, New Hampshire, but that facility was shuttered in December 2007.

HP, as you might imagine, doesn't want OpenVMS customers freaking out over the loss of Skonetski and the move of the development efforts to a new team. "HP continues to be fully committed to the OpenVMS operating system and its future development," explained Brian Cox, director of software planning and marketing for Business Critical Systems in an email exchange. "The mix of HP resources is adjusted from time to time as we utilize engineering resources from around the world. This provides the highest level of support for our customers with the optimal business model for HP."

Cox did not provide any details on layoffs in the Marlboro lab or where the OpenVMS development lab would be located, if indeed it is in India as the rumors suggest.

OpenVMS and its predecessors for VAXen and their kickers are coming up on 31 years in commercial and technical computing, and like all proprietary systems, they're under great pressure from the large Windows installed base and cast Windows ecosystem of applications. Just like HP's MPE/ix platform, which will be supported until December 31, 2010, and IBM's OS/400, which has been renamed "i" (and is i 6.1 in its latest release) and which runs on its latest Power Systems iron.

HP ported OpenVMS to its Itanium-based Integrity servers - a process that took a lot longer than many customers had hoped, especially since Compaq was working on a port of its OpenVMS, Tru64 Unix, and NonStop platforms before HP came a-wooing in September 2001 - and finally delivered OpenVMS v8.2 on selected models in January 2005. In September 2006, OpenVMS v8.3 was launched at the same time as Integrity machines using HP's "Arches" chipset and the dual-core "Montecito" Itanium 9000 processors. The current OpenVMS, v8.3-1H1, was tweaked to support the dual-core "Montvale" Itanium 9100 processors and added support for the BL860c and BL870c Itanium blade servers so OpenVMS shops could move to blades instead of rx Series rack servers.

If you look at the most current OpenVMS roadmap, OpenVMS v8.4 is in development now and will make use of new Integrity servers (presumably those based on the quad-core "Tukwila" Itaniums, which are way late to market) and will include improvements for virtualization and disaster tolerance clusters (including the support for VMSclusters over TCP/IP). OpenVMS v8.4 will run inside HP's own Itanium-based hypervisor, IntegrityVM, as a guest operating system, much as Windows, Linux, and HP-UX already do.

With Tukwila pushed out, OpenVMS development has been pushed out too, and in this case, OpenVMS v8.4 is now being promised for the first half of 2010, somewhere between 6 and 12 months after the Tukwilas take the field at HP. And beyond that, OpenVMS v.next is on the roadmap for the "next wave of enterprise computing." That probably means "Poulson" and "Kittson" Itanium support - and maybe not much else if you are cynical about IT suppliers putting proprietary operating systems into maintenance mode. As many OpenVMS shops will be, by the way. If this isn't the case, now would be a good time for HP to start talking a little bit more for its plans for OpenVMS.

It will be interesting to see where HP-UX and NonStop development end up. If you know something, say something. ®

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